Red, itchy, scaly skin: Why Canadians with psoriasis continue to suffer in silence
Rosamond Turner, 25, from Toronto dealt with psoriasis for most of her adult life. Her outbreaks got so bad that her face turned itchy, red and scaly. It caused her so much anxiety that she couldn’t finish her application to a master’s degree program in social work.
She even avoided leaving the house for months at a time so she didn’t have to face a world of people staring at her.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, scaly, flaky and sometimes raised itchy plaques on the skin. It’s an inflammatory disease.
Essentially, your immune system is overactive, triggering an overproduction of cells. Those cells then reach the surface of the skin and die. This creates a buildup, which can appear anywhere on the body.
Patches can be small or very large and sometimes they are found on the scalp, elbows or knees. The exact cause of the condition is unknown.
For Turner, she has been able to control her outbreaks with a treatment called phototherapy.
Phototherapy is a treatment for psoriasis that uses light to penetrate the skin and slow down the growth of skin cells, according to psoriasis.org. This involves exposing the skin to an artificial UVB light in a machine, which sort of looks like a tanning bed, for a scheduled period of time.
However, a new report by the Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients highlights the barriers Canadians face in getting access to this treatment.
The report, Pso Serious 2018: A Report on Access to Care and Treatment for Psoriasis Patients in Canada highlights the ongoing stigma psoriasis patients face not only in the public, but in the health care profession as well.
“Psoriasis patient suffer from a very visible and isolating disease. It’s a disease that makes them a prisoner in their own skin,” says Dr. David Adam, a dermatologist in Ajax, Ont.
The report outlines that 88 per cent of dermatologist work in urban or suburban centres while only two per cent work in geographically isolated or remote areas. There are currently no dermatologists in any of the territories.
“Access to dermatology is a real problem in Canada. It’s more regional, though. In downtown Toronto, it’s not that bad, but if you go to North Bay or Ottawa even, the wait list to be seen is over a year. There are definitely regional variations,” Adam says.
Adam says we need to service under-serviced areas in Canada as well as increase the number of clinics that provide phototherapy, which is considered an effective and inexpensive form of treatment.
Psoriasis also has a massive impact on quality of life and there is no cure, according to another study.
The first-ever report on happiness among people with psoriasis was released by the Happiness Research Institute, an independent think tank, based in Copenhagen.
The study suggests that people living with severe psoriasis in some countries reported 30 per cent lower levels of happiness than people who don’t have the condition. It also found that psoriasis reduces the happiness of women more than men.
In addition, the report states that loneliness is widespread among people living with the skin condition. Almost 35 per cent of people with the disease reported being lonely.
Researchers surveyed more than 120,000 people with psoriasis across 184 countries.
In general, Adam says there needs to be more knowledge about psoriasis, which is often perceived as something you can “catch.” However, the chronic skin disease is non-communicable and cannot spread by contact.
As well, health care professionals need to take the skin disease more seriously, he added. “They are many health care professionals who don’t appreciate the pervasiveness of the disease. Many will say it is just a skin disease, no big deal.”
As for Turner, she’s happy she was able to get access to treatment and can now live a life in which she doesn’t fear leaving her home.
“I’m applying for school again and working, so I am really happy,” Turner said.
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